Hoyas blow out Syracuse at electric Verizon Center
Recap: Georgetown opened the Big East with a regular season title back in 1980. Saturday against rival Syracuse, the Hoyas closed the conference - at least the version familiar to college basketball fans - with a bookend championship. Not relying on Otto Porter Jr. to turn in another superhero performance, No. 5 Georgetown received scoring from others and defensive effort from all in a stunning 61-39 victory.
The win clinched a share of the Big East title with No. 8 Louisville and No. 15 Marquette, also winners on Saturday, and ensured the Hoyas (24-5, 14-4) will be the No. 1 seed in next week's Big East Tournament.
Of course, that was only part of the storyline flowing through the raucous and sold out Verizon Center. Because Syracuse is headed to the ACC starting next season and Georgetown is sticking with the conference's seven basketball-only schools in a retooled Big East, the two teams will no longer play against each other in the same conference.
The Hoyas ended this era with their third regular season crown under John Thompson III, who has six titles in 13 seasons as a head coach. As the final buzzer sounded, Thompson thrust a single finger in the air while the Georgetown students rushed the court.
"Right now, this one feels nicer than any of the rest of them," Thompson said during his postgame press conference following the win. "It's special because the Big East as we have known it is ending. Georgetown won the first one, now Georgetown won the last. That means a lot."
From the back of the room came a familiar voice.
"Kiss Syracuse goodbye," bellowed John Thompson Jr., the current coach's father and the person most responsible for placing Georgetown on the national map following three Final Four appearances and the 1984 National Championship.
The Orange (23-8, 11-7) has had their share of triumphs in the series. This wasn't one of them.
“I don’t think of one game, if you think of one game, that’s not it," Boeheim said following the loss. Syracuse holds the all-time series lead 48-41.
"It’s been thirty plus year rivalry and it’s been good...It’s been a great rivalry, it’s been pretty competitive, this was probably one of the least competitive games. We’ve had a few like this but not too many."
Markel Starks paced the Hoyas with 19 points while D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera scored 11 of his 15 in the first half. Porter finished with only 10 points, but played the role of facilitator inside the middle of Syracuse's zone perfectly, matching his career-high with seven assists.
The stat: So many to choose from regarding Georgetown's defense throttling Syracuse's scorers, but let's go for the all-time note. The 39 points were the fewest for the Orange since defeating Kent. St 36-35 on Dec. 1 ...1962. As for this edition of Syracuse basketball, the Orange ending up with season-lows in field goal percentage (31.9), total (39) and first half (18) points.
Michael Carter-Williams led Syracuse with 17 points, the only Orange in double digits. Brandon Triche and James Southerland, both averaging over 14 points per game, finished a combined 1 of 17 with three points.
Guard against the guards: In Georgetown's 57-46 win at Syracuse last month, Porter scored 33 points while the other Hoyas missed and missed. On Friday, John Thompson III said that while prepping for the rematch, he believed the non-Porter's errant shots were more about not knocking down open looks than being stymied by Syracuse's vaunted 2-3 zone defense.
Based on the results, it's evident the coach knew what he was talking about. While Porter did not make his first basket until early in the second half, Starks and Smith-Rivera tallied 19 of Georgetown's 25 first half points. The backcourt combo sank eight 3-pointers, five from Starks.
After the game Boeheim said his preference was to stop the supporting cast and let Porter get his. That message apparently did not resonate with his team.
Adios Boeheim?: There has been speculation about whether the 68-year-old coach would want to start anew, conference-affiliation speaking. In his postgame press conference, Boeheim certainly sounded like a man thinking about retirement, waxing on with a heavy-dose of nostalgia talk even beyond what one might think following the end of the rivalry.
"Well, you know, I'm pretty much ready to go play golf somewhere," Boeheim said. "If was 40 years old, I'd be real upset. I'm not 40 years old. That should be obvious, though."
At other times this season, Boeheim's sparred with reporters, quite aggressively at times. That version was not in the building on Saturday.
"I'll miss some of these press conferences with some of you people, having a chance to get mad," he said. "Then everyone's mad at me for a couple of weeks. 'How can he say those things?' It's easy. It's real easy. I don't care." Boeheim laughed before continuing. "When we get in these press conferences, you have every right to ask any question you want, and I'll answer it any way I want to. It's fair. It's fair, right?"
Bummer: "Underneath all of the happiness is a certain amount of sadness because you still want to play against them, you still want to be in the league with him. That's the way it goes." - John Thompson Jr.
On hand: Many Georgetown alumni showed up, including Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning and Michael Graham. Also inside the Verizon Center, 20,972 folks, the most ever to see a college basketball game in the D.C. area.
What's next: The Hoyas received a double-bye into the quarterfinal round of the Big East Tournament where they will play the winner over Providence-Cincinnati on Thursday at noon. With a win, Georgetown could face No. 4 Pittsburgh or Syracuse on Friday night.